“Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.”
—1 Corinthians 12:31

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus is rejected in his hometown of Nazareth by the people he grew up with. When Jesus challenges them to respond to his message in a way that is different from their ancestors, they revolt against him.

There are times in our lives when we too can be like the people of Nazareth when we are faced with challenging messages that we want to reject. Sama, one of our international volunteers, was just 16 years old when she received the devastating news that would turn her life upside down. But as she looks back on it today, she sees how it led her to exactly where she needed to be. This is her story.

Sama was days away from graduating high school when she heard the words that no one wants to hear from their doctor: he told her she had cancer, he didn’t know how far it had spread, or whether she would live or not. Her life flashed before her eyes. Sama never thought it would be her, looking at herself in a mirror, trying to imagine herself without hair, eyebrows, or eyelashes. She also never thought it would be her, years later, thinking that if she had the chance to go back and change her past, that she would choose to have cancer every single time. Because despite cancer being an incredibly significant part of her life, her story is not about cancer. But it was cancer that brought her to her story.

During a chemo session one day at the Children’s Hospital in Washington D.C., she overheard a heated philosophical debate. The topic? “Which should we watch — The Little Mermaid or The Lion King?” As she sat in a reclining chair, being injected with a solution nicknamed ‘the red death’ and playing an intense game of backgammon with her older brother, she looked over to see who was having this discussion and saw a young, bald boy, about six or seven years old, hooked to an IV in a chair next to her. While her reclining chair was completely taken up by just her body, his fit another tiny little human in it: his sister. The debate ended with both children agreeing on the Lion King.

Sama watched stunned as these two children spent their day in the infusion room, enjoying this classic together. She remembers in that moment, looking at her brother next to her — as he had been for every single ten-hour chemo session — thinking how blessed they were because he never had to go through this during their childhood.

CMMB volunteer Sama and brother

Sama’s brother was her rock during her chemotherapy treatments.

Never once, as a child, did she sit in a reclining chair with her brother, worried about whether he’d live or not. Never once did she look at his thick curly hair falling out, lock by lock. Never once did she worry about her brother’s white blood cell count or have to wear a mask to get to sit next to him. It was in that moment, hooked up to an IV, nauseated and bald, that she realized how good her life was. Yes, she had cancer, was fragile, and couldn’t remember what it was like to not be in pain, but she was the luckiest person in the world.

For Sama, the pain of chemotherapy was nothing like the pain she felt every time she entered the oncology/hematology department and saw the children. It was in those infusion rooms surrounded by sick children that she decided she would spend the rest of her life doing everything in her power to prevent children from getting sick.

“Cancer isn’t my story. The beautiful children of the world are my story; their health, their childhood and their lives are “my story” – and that is why I am a volunteer.” —Sama

Sama and her mom in Peru

Sama as a CMMB volunteer pursuing her passion to help children in Peru.

Sama served as a CMMB volunteer in one of the hardest to reach communities in Trujillo, Peru. She collaborated with the staff there to educate and promote healthy habits for both women and children.

“To be volunteering in Peru, working on a project committed to preventing anemia and improving nutrition through education, I look back and realize that everything that has happened, every single moment, was leading me to where I am now. And for that, I am extremely blessed.” —Sama

Tomorrow on World Cancer Day we honor all those whose lives have been impacted by cancer. Let us pray that at every moment we are able to see God’s will for us, whatever that may be, and for the courage to carry that out.

In grace and peace,

CMMB – Healthier Lives Worldwide

Today’s reflection was inspired by Loyola Press.

These children are still waiting for their angel.

Wildline, 3

Wildline close up face photo


Franslin, 15 months

Franslin is 15 months old


Safari, 10